36 Hours in Eureka Springs — How to Make the Most of Them
A day and a half. That might not seem like a long time, but you can sure have a ton of fun in Eureka Springs over that span. To make the best of your visit, you’ll need a plan. Here’s a very packed itinerary for how to spend 36 hours in our lovely, friendly and quirky Ozark Mountain town. You’ll have to make some choices based on your lifestyle and travel preferences.
Ready? Of course you are.
Day 1 — 8 a.m.
Let’s get you started nice and early.
You’ll need to fuel up your body and mind first — and that means breakfast. There are myriad choices in our historic downtown. Here’s a few:
The Mud Street Cafe is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. We recommend the to-die-for Pancakes and Garlic Cheese Grits. Homey Nibbles Eatery is a convenient place for basics and is also known for its smoothies, in case you prefer liquid energy. Oscar’s Cafe, situated in a house with a roomy front porch, is highly regarded for its homemade sweet treats. And the Sweet-n-Savory Cafe certainly lives up to its name — especially with choices like their Seafood Stuffed Crepe.
Now that you’re well fed, let’s check out downtown, the entirety of which has been on the National Register of Historic Places for 51 years.
We suggest starting out by perusing the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, located at the southern end of downtown, to get a sense of our city’s curious and wonderful past.
To get the lay of the land, you can hop on the Eureka Springs Tram Tour, which offers a leisurely 90-minute excursion through downtown and is expertly narrated by a local guide. It departs from the Visitors Center. Another option is to get a day pass for the Eureka Springs Trolley, which encompasses four routes and dozens of stops. Ours is a hilly burg, so you may want an assist or two during a walking tour.
Speaking of — let’s get hoofing. A walking tour of downtown is an unforgettable experience. Eureka Springs is built on 20 hills divided by 19 ravines, with its houses stacked one behind the other. You’ll stroll through neighborhoods made up of colorful Victorian homes. The network of streets west of Main is rife with intriguing, locally owned boutiques, offbeat specialty stores and gift shops.
And then there are the galleries. Eureka Springs is an arts haven. In fact, roughly 300 of our 2,000 residents are working artists. Don’t miss the Art Colony of Eureka Springs, a funky enclave where artists have studios and “storefronts” for their work. There’s plenty of public art to see as well, like the popular Rainbow Stairs.
Eureka Springs is also hailed for the 60-plus fresh-water springs within city limits. You can come across them at random — they’re perfect for relaxing respites — or follow the Eureka Springs Natural Springs Trail.
Time to Refuel
Getting hungry? There is an abundance of places downtown to grab a quick bite for lunch. The Local Flavor Cafe is an excellent choice for a laid-back sit-down meal. If you want lunch that comes with breathtaking views, try SkyBar Gourmet Pizza. The indoor/outdoor place serves fantastic pies on the 4th floor of the 1886 Crescent Hotel, which overlooks downtown and the city’s surrounding areas.
For a truly unique lunch experience, climb aboard the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway, a 1940s-era diesel locomotive. You’ll eat in luxury in the Eurekan Dining Car as you take in the gorgeous Ozark scenery. The lunch train starts at noon and lasts about 90 minutes.
More Sights to See
Expand your geographic range a bit and check out some nearby attractions. You can’t miss Christ of the Ozarks, a modernist statue of Jesus that stands 65-feet tall and looks benevolently down on the Eureka Springs area. Marvel at the sculpture up close and saunter through the lovely adjoining grounds of The Great Passion Play. The attraction also offers The Holy Land Tour, a two-hour Biblical teaching experience.
Elsewhere, there’s Thorncrown Chapel, a remarkable structure nestled in the woods three miles from downtown that rises 48 feet amid the trees and contains 425 windows consisting of 6,000 square feet of glass.
Breathtaking views abound all around Eureka Springs, and one of the best is Inspiration Point Overlook, which is situated on a cliff 550 feet above the White River and provides panoramic vistas of the spectacular Ozark landscape. Make sure your camera is locked and loaded. For a different kind of inspiration, check out the 460-acre Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, which has rescued and cared for tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats and other wild creatures for a decade. One visitor enthused online, “It’s amazing to see the large number of big cats in one location that is not a zoo.”
It’s about time to get set up in your hotel, but here’s an idea: Beforehand, take a quick detour and enjoy a pint or two at Eureka Springs Brewery, which sits on five pine-laden acres three miles east of downtown.
When it comes to lodging, Eureka Springs runs the whole gamut. We have several brand-name hotels that offer familiar comfort and convenience, but for a more unique experience, choose one of the historic hotels located downtown. These include the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, which is built into the side of a mountain; the stately 1886 Crescent Hotel; the luxurious Grand Central Hotel (built in 1883, the oldest in town); the intimate Palace Hotel & Bath House Spa; and the wrought-iron-draped New Orleans Hotel. All of them are within walking distance of each other in the downtown core.
The more curious at heart can stay in an array of treehouses, cottages and even Hobbit caves, including Eureka Springs Treehouses, Caves, Castles & Hobbits, Treehouse Cottages, Enchanted Treehouses and Oak Crest Cottages & Treehouses.
Dinner Awaits (and a Night Out)
You may want to shower and have a quick nap, because there’s plenty left to do.
For a small city, Eureka Springs boasts an elevated culinary scene. There are plenty of affordable restaurants — one of the most popular is Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking — but if you’re up for a splurge night, we’ve got you covered. Grotto Wood Fired Grill/Wine Cave, Rogue’s Manor, Grand Taverne Restaurant, Le Stick Nouveau and Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse all offer fine dining amid upscale environs, serving cuisine that ranges from classic to modern.
Eureka Springs nightlife includes elegant cocktail lounges (Missy’s White Rabbit Lounge), lively bars (Rowdy Beaver Den, The Cathouse Lounge), and beer gardens (Midtown Bar). To get your party on, there’s Eureka Live, which boasts the town’s largest dance floor and stages outrageous drag shows year-round. For an eclectic lineup of live music, Chelsea’s Corner Cafe has been presenting acts nightly for 25 years — with no cover charge.
For a super(natural) time, embark on one of our ghost tours. The Haunted Eureka Springs Tour is a walking trek that includes the city’s longest stretch of underground tunnels. The 1905 Basin Park Hotel and the 1886 Crescent Hotel (billed as “America’s most haunted hotel”) hold after-dark spook tours as well.
And for a magical time — literally — there’s the Intrigue Theater, where master illusionists Sean Paul and Juliana Fay will wow you with their costumes and sets in a 110-year-old stone chapel building. It’s a big show in a small city.
By now you’ve got to be a little tuckered out. So sleep well — we’ve got a big day planned for tomorrow!
Day 2 — 9, 10 a.m. (Give or Take)
Today is an outdoor day, so we hope you got some good rest.
Eureka Springs is a quaint city that was effectively carved out of the Ozark Mountains. It’s surrounded by a sea of green, laced with a bounty of lakes, rivers and springs — and that means endless natural fun. If you like to get physical, you’ve come to the right place.
To warm up, stroll through the shaded pathways of the 1.4-mile Harmon Park Loop on the other edge of downtown. For a more vigorous hike, head over to The Great Passion Play grounds, which feature 18 miles of trails. Lake Leatherwood City Park, 1,600 gorgeous acres less than four miles from downtown, provides 15 miles of trails. Both of these places offer some of the best mountain biking trails in the Mid-South region. Daredevils come here for the rugged, high-flying courses, but there are routes for all skill levels as well.
Ziplining enthusiasts will love Ozark Mountain Ziplines. You’ll whiz up to 300 feet above the ground at speeds that reach 40 mph over a canopy of trees and cliffs.
A Little Farther Out
If you true outdoor adventurers want to make more of a full day of it, here are a couple of additional options:
Beaver Lake, a scenic 30-mile drive west from downtown, is a 32,000-acre wonderland where you can hike, bike, swim, dive, paddle, boat, fish and more. Kings River is a beautiful, spring-fed waterway perfect for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. You can rent vessels and gear from several local shops: Kings River Outfitters, Float Eureka, Riverside Canoe Rentals, Holiday Island Marina and Trigger Gap Outfitters.
Those who prefer a more relaxed outdoor experience will want to embark on one of several cave tours close to Eureka Springs. They include Cosmic Cavern, Onyx Cave Park and War Eagle Cavern. The coolest thing about these underground marvels is that temperatures range from the 50s and to mid-60s year-round.
And if sitting back and sightseeing is your thing, you can’t go wrong with an easygoing cruise on Beaver Lake aboard the Belle of the Ozarks.
Time Left for Some Pampering
We still have some time on the clock, and Eureka Springs is more than capable of helping you relax and rejuvenate after an active day outdoors.
People first flocked to our area in the late 1800s as word got out about the supposed healing powers or our natural springs. That legacy has lived on in the form of a dozen or so massage and spa facilities in and around town. The Grand Central Hotel Spa, New Moon Spa at the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa 1905 at the Basin Park Hotel offer full-on indulgence, and you can also choose from several stand-alone massage and treatment centers.
You’ll leave Eureka Springs feeling great and looking great — and ready to plan your next 36-hour Eureka Springs adventure!